Legal Work Experience; A Few Ideas
We probably don’t need to tell you that getting a CV stuffed full of relevant work experience is essential if you want to obtain a training contract. With an empty CV even a 2:1 from Oxford may not be enough to secure one.
Quite simply you won’t be able to answer the “Why do you want to work in law?” question well enough. How are you supposed to know if you haven’t worked a day in legal services? Let’s look at some of the best sources of legal work experience.
The trouble isn’t always getting ideas about where to find work experience, but actually obtaining it. Considering (for some roles) you’re going to be giving away your services for free it can be quite a challenge!
Voluntary legal experience – Have a look at the article we’ve done on volunteering. This involves working for institutions like the Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter. Even though it’s volunteer work they wont just accept anyone; when applying treat it like a proper job application.
Vacation schemes – Sometimes they can be as hard as a proper training contract application. The plus side is (if you get one) you will have an advantage over other candidates applying for the same firm. Probably one of the best sorts of experience you can get depending on your career goals.
Volunteer at a high street firm – This isn’t always easy. You need to remember it takes time and effort on the firms behalf to actually train you so you can be put you to good use. The best way to get a volunteer placement is to send letters to several firms expressing your interest in volunteer work. Explaining that you would be happy simply shadowing a solicitor for a week may increase your chances of success.
Try to send the letters out in batches of 5-10, if one batch is unsuccessful, send out another, and another until you get a placement. This could lead to further opportunities in the future. There may also be the opportunity for long term volunteer work.
Volunteer at a court – This is an option that people don’t always think of. There are numerous things you could do depending on which type of court you’re at. You could assist the court staff with admin work, provide support to defendants families (although this requires training) or even shadow a barrister or judge (marshalling). Enquire at your closest court about any available opportunities.
Freelance – This is a hard one to get into. But it’s a really good opportunity because you will get paid, get experience, and may be able to work from home! Have a look at sites like http://www.freelancer.co.uk. For example, someone could want a basic set of terms and conditions drafting for their web page, or maybe want some legal research carrying out. If you do a good job the role could even become permanent. For a while I actually drafted the contracts for a marketing company in London, a solicitor then reviewed my drafts. This worked out much cheaper for my employers and gave me great experience.
Work in a firm – This is the hardest and most obvious option. Simply get a job in a law firm! Although this may be as hard as as actually getting a training contract in the current economic climate. As well as getting paid and getting great experience, a reference from a solicitor is going to be very beneficial. You’ll need to have the right contacts for this though, and most firms won’t want someone who is just working for the sake of experience. However there is always the chance you could take your training contract with the firm if they do offer one.
Non legal work experience
Even if a certain type of work isn’t in the legal sector, it can still be highly beneficial on your CV. Here are some of the roles that we think will look great on your CV. You can either gain valuable skills from them or gain knowledge which could help you in your legal career. We obviously don’t want to list careers in which you need to go too far down a career path so these roles require minimal experience.
Managerial – We’re not taking about managing an entire company here, but smaller management roles. This will usually involve managing a small group of people in a team leader role, or even managing a certain section of a shop. These roles are most common in retail where numerous sub manager roles can be created for various departments.
So while working at a supermarket by itself may not be beneficial for law firms, if you can get a team leader role then this demonstrates excellent leadership qualities to firms. Enquire about this sort of role after a year of working for the company, or after you get back from university.
Admin – Admin work is a part of all firms and business and you will undoubtedly need a basic understanding of it when you’re a solicitor. Admin can really help your organisational skills and general understanding of business procedure. It will also demonstrate to any future firm that your computer and technology skills are fully up to scratch.
Customer facing (especially in financial services) – These roles really can help demonstrate that you will have the ability to deal with clients in the future. Treating clients well is an essential part of running a successful law firm – word of mouth can spread very quickly. If you’ve had experience of dealing with customers face to face or over the phone who are perhaps angry or rude, then the diplomacy and professionalism you used should serve you well in practice.
Armed forces – This may seem like an odd one at first. But if you look at the range of skills you get from being a part of the armed forces you will soon see why it’s valued by law firms. We’re not talking about becoming a full time soldier either; you can join the Territorial Army and train in your spare time. There is a requirement of 27 training days per annum and to top it all off you get paid too.
Things like time management, leadership and reliability are important skills for everyone. In the Army, they’re vital. And that’s why you’ll learn them when you join as a Territorial. By doing your training and spending time with your unit, you’ll soon find that you start getting into some really good habits. The Army won’t change your personality, but we can show you how to be methodical, organised and in charge of your life. – http://www.army.mod.uk
Sales – The ability to talk over the phone (in the case of telesales), negotiate, state your position clearly and think on your feet are going to be useful to law firms. As will the ability to cope with pressure and hit targets. If your sales experience is in insurance for example then you will also gain useful experience of the insurance industry. This would be very useful if you plan to go into commercial law.
If you want to go into a certain branch of law e.g sports law, medical negligence or housing it would certainly be useful to get a job in those areas. Working at an estate agents for example will definitely assist you in the future if you wish to go into property law. You should know how to better assist clients having been in a similar position to them while working at the estate agents.